I had some friends over for a little Memorial Day BBQ and plan to do it again for the July 4 holiday and many other weekends before summer ends. Even though grilling is a healthy cooking technique—it requires no added fat and lets excess fat in meat and poultry drip away—there are many foods that we should keep off our grills due to their high calorie, saturated fat, and/or sodium content. Here’s my summer grilling menu, which is a lot healthier than the traditional BBQ menu. I hope it inspires some of you to share your favorite outdoor summer dishes.

Grilled poultry sausage vs. bratwurst
I was at the supermarket and, out of curiosity, picked up a package of bun-size Hillshire Farm Cheddar Wurst smoked sausage. The pork-and-beef sausages weighed in at 240 calories and 21 grams of fat, 8 grams of which were heart-stopping saturated fat. Not to mention the 660 mg of sodium.

Then I bought my Aidells Portobello Mushroom Smoked Chicken and Turkey Sausage. Each of these stocky sausages weighed in at only 140 calories, 8 grams of fat (with only 2.5 saturated), and 540 mg sodium.

If your dog starts at 250 calories and you add another 120 calories for the bun, plus at least 75 for condiments, one dog will add up to 450 calories or more. No chances of seconds with that chubby dog.

Poultry sausages deliver all the taste and texture of beef or pork sausages without the calories or fat. Serve them in buns for a healthier alternative. To go even leaner, I cut the sausages into chunks, top them with fresh basil and a slice of heirloom tomato, and serve with toothpicks and condiments.

Save: At least 300 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 5.5 grams saturated fat

Grilled veggie skewers vs. coleslaw
I nix coleslaw—it has more than 250 calories and 15 grams of fat a cup—and grill up summer squash, bell pepper, and mushrooms, and skewer them with small pieces of feta cheese and grape tomatoes for a healthy appetizer that doesn’t add extra fat or calories.

Save: At least 150 calories and 10 grams fat

Portobello burgers vs. beef burgers
I am in my flexitarian (semi-vegetarian) phase, so I’m off beef for now. Instead I like to grill portobello mushroom burgers and serve them with heirloom tomato slices and goat cheese on a multigrain bun.

A traditional, small (3-ounce) beef burger made with 80% lean ground beef served on a plain bun with ketchup and mustard packs in just over 400 calories and 16 grams of fat. The portobello burger—prepared with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper—comes in under 300 calories, even with the bun and condiments.

Skinny cow bars vs. ice cream
Who doesn’t want ice cream or some frozen dessert in the summer? To satisfy my craving, I opt for Skinny Cow Skinny Dippers chocolate-coated ice cream bars. Premium chocolate ice cream has about 200 to 250 calories per half a cup, with 15 grams total fat (11 grams saturated). These Skinny Cow treats weigh in at 80 calories and 3 grams of fat (2 saturated). They satisfy my desire for a creamy, sweet, frozen dessert without blowing the calories in my diet.

Save: At least 120 calories, 10 grams fat, and 10 grams saturated fat.

These simple dietitian-approved substitutions can cut hundreds of calories and a day’s worth of saturated fat from your summer menu. And guests won’t feel the least bit deprived—at least, no one complains when they come to our house.

By: Julie Upton, MS, RD

(ALEXANDER SHALAMOV/ISTOCK)